Editorial: Sinulog economics

IT HAS always been about the money.

Of course, much has changed since the first Sinulog parade was held 40 years ago, organized by David Odilao Jr., then regional director of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development.

In the late 1970s, the Marcos government ordered various regions in the country to come up with festivals or celebrations that could boost tourism and development.

So when Odilao came up with the Sinulog project, it wasn’t because of a religious epiphany. He was tasked to come up with a followup to his successful project, Bahug-Bahug sa Mactan, now called the Battle of Mactan.

It was common knowledge that the Catholic faithful in Cebu venerated the Child Jesus. Yet, it didn’t have a festival to honor the Sto. Niño.

Odilao decided to rectify that with the Sinulog festival.

From the very start, it was clear that the Sinulog would be a money-making venture.

And it must be distinguished from its religious counterpart, the solemn procession, organized by the Basilica del Sto. Niño, which takes place a day before the grand parade.

If the Sinulog had been operating in the red, it might have been scrapped. But it started to make money in the late 1980s. By the mid-1990s, the event had drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors and poured in millions of pesos to Cebu’s formal and informal economy.

In other words, everyone profited from the celebration.

That all changed when this year’s organizers decided to enter into an exclusive sponsorship arrangement with San Miguel Foods Inc. that barred homegrown food manufacturers from selling their products at the Cebu City Sports Center, the Plaza Independencia and the Fuente Circle on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020.

The move disappointed Stanley Go, vice president for marketing at Virginia Foods Inc., a Cebu-based food manufacturing company. “It’s like you are not invited to your own party,” he said.

In the past, Go said, all homegrown players were able to participate in the festival, “an occasion where micro and small entrepreneurs made money selling hotdogs, barbecues and other food items along the grand parade route.”

But the Sinulog Foundation Inc. wants to maximize its income and it can’t do that if its marketing arm didn’t resort to entering into an agreement with entities that can give bigger offers and revenues.